Obama makes strong call for clean energy — oh, and drilling and fracking too
Clean energy rocks. Nice, deserving people get jobs at wind-turbine plants. Solyndra-style investments are critical. Oil-industry subsidies suck. Energy efficiency is an economic engine. We need to drill, baby, drill. And we need to frack, baby, frack.
Those weren’t the words, but those were the sentiments in the energy portion of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He dedicated a significant chunk of the speech to energy issues, making an unexpectedly vigorous appeal for renewable power, cleantech investment, and efficiency — as well as for natural-gas fracking and oil drilling.
“This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy,” he said. That line got a standing O even from the Republicans — as it should have, considering Obama took “all of the above” straight from the GOP playbook.
Here are the energy and environmental sections of the speech, with some helpful translations:
Think about the America within our reach: … A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.
Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right — eight years. Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.
Translation: Yo, Republicans, you can’t bash me as a fossil-fuel hater, even though I quashed Keystone.
Republicans: Oh yeah? Watch us.
But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy — a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
Translation: Let’s frack! But frack clean. Ummm, details to come.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock — reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.
What’s true for natural gas is just as true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
Cameras pan to dude sitting in First Lady’s box …
When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”
Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail.
Translation: Lay off the Solyndra thing already! Solyndra-style investments work, even if Solyndra didn’t.
But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.
We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.
Translation: Hear that, enviros? Don’t say I never did anything for you. Or at least said anything for you.
We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.
The C word! He said the C word. Once, and half-heartedly. But last time he didn’t say it at all.
But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.
So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history — with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.
Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.
So here’s a proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy.
Smart grid! The energy geeks cheer.
I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean.
Red meat for the base. Very safe red meat, from cattle that drank very clean water.
Yes, the president bragged about increased oil production and promised still more, and he made a big push for natural gas generally and fracking specifically. The White House even considered putting in a specific natural-gas production goal, though they ultimately decided against it.
Still, Obama made a strong, substantial argument for a clean energy economy. In an election year, that’s as good as we were going to get. It was no “It’s time to end the tyranny of oil.” But Barack Obama is no George W. Bush.
Get Grist in your inbox